A/N: Love to reviewers
Title is a reference to the famous quote from Ecclesiastes. Summery quote is from 'Miss Saigon'.
I've promised the Malfoys they'll get the keyboard back soon, but I wanted a final chance to say my bit.
When Countess Black came onboard, she asked me to promise her two things. The first was that Draco would stop being so damned selfish in bed; he's better, at least, than he was. The second was that when Draco and Hermione got married, Hermione wouldn't end up in ruffles and lace.
This touches on a bugbear of mine, as it happens. Why are weddings in fantasy always exactly like modern, mainstream Western ceremonies in a context where that makes no sense? I set out to delibrately subvert that as much as possible.
I know that my ceremony runs somewhat counter to the one in DH; I tend to assume that the Malfoys, being extremely conservative and anti-muggle, would adhere very strictly to the old ways, whereas families like the Weasleys would not.
Also, italics indicate a flashback; bolded italics are...something else.
This is the sequel to 'Favor me with Silence'. If you haven't read that, I recommend doing so before you read this. Also, most of the same elements will be present.
Onwards and upwards,
It was her wedding...day, as it happened...and Hermione Granger--now Malfoy-- was studying her new husband. When Draco smiled, really smiled, his face changed totally. His eyes would crinkle a bit at the corners, and then the smile would slowly ease across his face, and then finally his dimples would show.
He was doing it now. Hermione smiled back, her other hand moved down slowly, through the fine blonde hair on his stomach and lower, until…his hand caught hers and held it.
"Mmm, what a curious little girl I have."
"It's been a long time."
He laughed. "Felt like months, didn't it?"
She nodded and pressed his shoulders to try to get him to lie down so she could climb atop him. Draco gently stiffened, refusing to be moved, and Hermione put her face up and said "Is something wrong, Draco?"
Draco wasn't smiling this time. He was smirking. Hermione felt her stomach clinch a bit. "You're plotting something."
"Now, love, I'm always plotting something. The question you should be asking is 'how does this plot relate to my interests?'"
Hermione shook her head. "Slytherins."
"Damned right. Like it is, I happen to be plotting a good, hard whacking for you. Go and get the chair ready for me, and choose an implement. Perhaps the slipper or spoon, something of that nature."
Hermione looked outraged. "I've not done anything!" She really didn't feel it, though, and softened her protest with a poke in the ribs for Draco. Draco huffed and pointedly ignored her.
"It's been ages since I gave you maintenance, and anyway, who decides about your discipline, Hermione Jane?"
"You do, sir."
" Up you get, then, and consider yourself lucky I'm not counting this against you. And put your nightgown back on."
Hermione found there was a sort of warm excitement in her stomach. She'd no doubt the smacking would hurt, and be humiliating and make her feel helpless and small, but those things actually seemed all right at the moment. Especially considering the morning they'd had…
The darkness was almost a living thing. The light from the wall sconces was thin, wavering in and out as they walked the endless steps down and down into the belly of the house. Hermione was shivering. She wore no clothing beneath her robes. She wished for her bracelet; a warm jumper and thick trousers and wool socks might have been nice, but without her bracelet she was well and truly naked.
Finally they came to the end and Greg put a hand on her arm. Ahead, Lucius flicked his wand and a million tiny candles flickered into existence. Around them, the marble tombs rose into the darkness, glowing white, illuminating the wreaths of flowers and fruit that garlanded them.
"We stand now at the in-between, the place where worlds meet. There are no secrets in the dark. Do you understand?"
Greg tightened his hand lightly on Hermione's arm. "We do."
"Then come. The dead decide now."
There was a flat place under the dais with the table on it and they knelt. Lucius was ahead of all of them, and he reached for the basket of ritual goods and began.
"Ancestors, we greet you by name and beg your pardon for our trespass. Here is wine to refresh you and herbs to lift your spirits. Hear us now and see that this duty has been done." He opened the flagon of wine, poured a stream into a bowl and carried it to the altar.
"We bring this offering in promise and celebration of a new life. Your descendant marries, and he comes to do you honour." Draco rose and stood beside his father. A spot of brightness filled the room; Draco had lit a small brazier. Murmuring a reverence, he sprinkled a handful of incense on the flames.
"Come forth, Goyle, and bring my son's wife hence."
"She is yet ours." Galten stood and helped Hermione walk the two meters to the place before the altar.
"This is the girl, pure and untouched, pledged to our family line?"
"A promise once made can never be revoked. Speak now or seal the girl's fate."
"By the shade of Galbraith Goyle, this is the girl you seek."
Lucius lifted the bowl of wine and gave it to Hermione. "Drink." She drained it. It was sour and oily, and as soon as it was down the room began to spin a little. Was there something in it? She couldn't remember afterword putting the bowl down; only Greg and his brother holding her arms to keep her from stumbling.
"It is as you say. We accept the girl."
Lucius offered her the bowl of incense. She sprinkled a pinch into the fire. Strangely, her arms seemed not to be connected to the rest of her. Her hand opened when she willed it to, but it was as though she were watching telly. How odd.
Galten nodded and turned to Draco. "You once vowed never to take arms against my house. Do you mean to honour that vow, in the sight of the living, the dead, and those such as we who are in between?"
"By the shade of Brutus Malfoy, I will never raise arms against your house, nor your lady wife's, nor your legal get, nor give aid to those who would."
"I have given you this girl, to give life to your line. What will you give me in return?"
Draco took a deep breath. "A life."
"Any who would raise arms against you."
"A vow is a weighty thing, and to forswear one taken in the presence of those who went before, who even now observe, is a sin beyond reckoning. All the world cries for the blood of an oath breaker. Do you understand?"
Draco nodded. "I do."
Galten poured wine from the flagon into the bowl and Draco drained it. He held the bowl by force of will; the world was swaying a little, and in the shadows he could see faces.
. "A promise once made can never be revoked."
Greg came up last. "You vowed last night to be my son's second. Drink and fulfill your vow to this man and his wife." He did. The wine made him want to gag but he held it down and let the dreams take him. Then they were dreaming, and what they were dreaming was this;
Draco is tiny and Father is lifting him. He laughs and the world seems to spin and now he is eleven and he is on the train to Hogwarts. He is thirteen and his arm is bloody, he is fourteen fifteen he is fifteen and masturbating to the remembered feel of Granger's flesh he is sixteen and is taking the Mark. The air crackles with the heaviness he associates with Dark magic, and his mask feels strange to him. His thoughts flash on Granger and something nags strangely at his mind, but he pushes it away.
The Dark Lord approaches and Draco bends to kiss his hem, nearly prostrate. He bears his arms and rolls it with terrible slowly. The Dark Lord's wand swishes and the arm is engulfed with agony, his soul on fire, and the smell of burned flesh and his own blood from where he has bit his tongue and the mask falls off and drops away and…Greyback? No, that isn't right. Greyback was at the manor, and they're not at the manor, they're at Yaxley's house. Or is it McNair's? He can't recall, but as he watches the coarse features melt like wax and the clothes shred. He is man and wolf, in between, and his human face has wolf's eyes and a red lolling tongue, yet he laughs with a man's voice…
She is at the seashore with her parents very small and happy and she has sand in her mouth and the water tastes salty and now she is twelve and there is blood in her knickers and she is bent over Malfoy's lap and he is making her feel good, alive, and the taste of his lips and she smells his seed, salty as the sea and her blood again, a spot on her thighs from where they joined and then she remembers that night outside the room, Draco's lips on hers for that moment in time and then she is falling, falling, and the book is below her on the bed and she knows he's gone, the paragraph inked for her . Marks..signs..Marks..and she smells blood and semen and tears all at once, and Draco's lips tasted like salt and his hands were so cold, so cold. Marks…signs…Marks…
Kent he is in Kent and the world is red the world is blood there is blood and screaming and the smell of rut and Bellatrix and the world is red blood on the walls and the floor, screaming and then Father is angry, Father is furious and he's going to be hit and then they are fleeing, they are hiding in the Forbidden Forrest and then it's battle and his aunt laughs as she kills the Creecy boy and he doesn't care, all he wants is Granger and Mother and Father and Home, and he holds her and…
Hermione sees Colin Creevy fall and Tonks and can do nothing, wheels and brings down Travers with a single well aimed stunner and the air stinks of sweat and death and then the scream comes like the birth cry of a nightmare and Hermione knows and he is there he is holding her and they are in her bed at home, her head on his chest as he sleeps and she smiles and then the garden, filled with lightening and one of them goes down with his chest a wet red pulp and over the rain she smells it and doesn't care, likes it, wants them all to die and then there's Draco and they're…
Making love in his bed and he knows it to be the future, that night, and she digs her nails into his neck and sighs and now they are in the garden and now they are laughing as he pulls her down onto a blanket and she buries her face in his chest and now outside again but no one is laughing and he feels something warm and wet on his face and knows it is blood and it is not his and he cries out her name and something answers him and it is not human nor animal but something less and more and it is in between…
Outside and the smell of fresh mud and pine and night air, and something looms above her and she falls and feels claws on her skin and there's blood on her face and it is not hers but the thing above her is laughing like a growl and pressing claws into her skin and she cries for Draco and the thing makes the noise again, neither laugh nor howl but something in between…
And then there are others visions, but they fade just as these will and only they remain, together, and each saw the other every time, and so it's done and then someone is shaking them, first Draco and then Hermione and …
Hermione felt someone gently tip her head back. "Open your mouth." She did and something rancid filled it and she swallowed, knowing it was a potion. The veil of poppy draught or whatever it had been disintegrated and she stood unaided, aware she was stiff and cold and sore. The others, too were on their feet, and their faces were chalky white.
"It is time." Lucius poured the lees of the flagon into the bowl and motioned Draco and Hermione forward. Greg came and well, and stood at Hermione's shoulder. He was shaking ever so slightly.
"Draco, did the omens favour this match?"
"Gregory, does the lady agree?" Hermione swallowed her vexation at being spoken for and nodded. Greg said slowly "She does."
Lucius levitated the bowl between the two. "Join hands. What is joined may never be sundered, and a promise made can never be revoked. I bind you as husband and wife in the sight of the living, the dead and the in between." He murmured a spell and their hands glowed a moment and then faded.
Hermione wished more than anything her parents could have seen, but her heart was full of joy as well; she and Draco were safe, they could never be forced apart again. He gave her hand a squeeze and, looking up, saw there were tears on his cheeks.
They weren't the only ones. Lucius' eyes were wet, and from behind them someone was sobbing softly. Draco took Hermione's arm with great solemnity and led her to his mother. Narcissa was holding a tiny brazier in one hand and a cup of water in the other.
"I offer you the fire and water of this house. Do you accept?"
"The promise made here, in the sight of the living and the dead, can never be revoked. Rejoin the living, conscious of the change that has been made". Lucius ended it with those words and they trooped back upstairs, and Hermione found her stomach knotting, and not just from hunger.
The wedding contract sat on a table, a full inkwell beside it. First Lucius, then Galten, and finally Draco and Hermione signed. It glowed briefly and rolled itself into a tube as Lemmy, resplendent in a snowy tea towel, ceremonially strapped the parchment to the leg of the owl that waited on a discreet perch.
The window flew open at a flick of Lucius' wand and the owl departed with a muffled beating of wings. Narcissa and Antigone each took one of Hermione's hands and led her upstairs, into Narcissa's rooms. A fresh set of robes had been laid out, deep blue, and matching shoes and stockings. Tibby, weeping, was called to dress Miss, and then, holding the discarded robes and shoes, they went downstairs again.
Narcissa nodded once and Tibby dropped the whole bundle into the fire, where it ignited with a whoosh , burning so quickly Hermione thought that Tibby must have done something to it. Antigone and Galten pressed forward and embraced Hermione in turn.
"Daughter, here is your father now. Obey him as you have me."
"Daughter, here is your mother now. Help her as you have me."
Draco took up the goblet that sat waiting on a tray. "Drink, wife." Her first act of obedience to him, to them, and she swallowed. The wine was cold and sweet, and she handed the goblet back as he drank as well.
The Goyles left in silence, as she knew they would, and then everyone relaxed a bit, knowing the worst was over. Draco took Hermione's hand and they made their way up the stairs.
Greg Goyle waited outside the appointed chamber. "I am here to do my duty, even as you do yours."
"Carry on with my thanks and that of my house."
Then doors swung shut behind them and finally, finally they were alone. In the silence they stared at one another a full minutes and then Draco, laughing, picked her up and swung her. "We did it, we really did it!"
Then she was laughing too, and back on the ground, and his hands found the fastening on her robes and pulled hooks from eyes, let the robes fall in a puddle of velvet. She was wonderfully, gorgeously nude under, and Draco felt that all his Christmases had come at once. Setting her on the bed, he knelt and dropped his head to her thigh.
"If you ever tell anyone I cried, I'll deny it."
Hermione snorted. "I love you too, Draco."
Draco could have responded, but he was too busy. Hermione gasped. She'd forgot how good it felt. She'd forgot how he could make pleasure move up and down her nerve endings like electricity, forgot he could play her like a violin. She jerked her hips, moaning, and then lay down.
"P-please, please, can't we—ahh! God, Malfoy---oh, yes, there!" She finished with a gasp and then went limp, grinning, as Draco went into the ensuite bathroom and cleaned himself.
Granger, he thought, would never learn that he knew what was best. Well, she would, but not without frequent reminders. He hardened at the very thought, even as he was swishing his mouth, and reached for the discreetly placed phial next to the sink . Stepping out, he handed it to Hermione.
"Here, precious, swallow this for me."
She smiled lazily. "What is it?"
"Painkiller. You took that potion, remember? It'll hurt otherwise."
Hermione swallowed and then looked at him strangely. "You mean to say I'm a virgin again?"
"For the next thirty seconds or so. Ready?"
"I don't know. Perhaps I should take advantage of this opportunity. I could pet a unicorn or something."
Draco snorted as he skinned out of his clothing. "I've something even better right here, and you needn't put your clothes back on."
Entering her was like homecoming. Draco made himself go slowly, savour how good she felt, notice the little motions of eyelids and lips and the frail beat of her pulse at her neck. He pressed his lips to it, to her collarbones and sternum and ears, and came enormously.
Hermione let the pleasure take her. The sadness and anxiety, the lonlieness and anger she'd felt since her home had been destroyed, fell away. All that remained was the sense of fullness inside her, the world shrunk to their ragged breath, the familiar burden of his weight. She felt him still, shuddering, and then it was finished.
He rolled off and they lay in comfortable silence for some time, filled with gratitude and contentment.
Draco grinned as he rose and slid his nightshirt over his head with a grimace. So old fashioned! Well, tradition is tradition, and since he expected it of Hermione…he'd just have to find an extra clever way around it.
Speaking of whom, his little girl had done precisely what he'd asked, and stood, eyes downcast, beside the chair. She'd even set the slipper right where she was supposed to.
"Excellent, darling. Aren't we a big girl today?"
He sat and took her wrist, gently pulling her over his knee and tucking the voluminous folds of linen up. Oh, he had missed this terribly. Hermione evidentially felt the same way, because she was wiggling closer to him, and he spent a moment just stroking her arse, delighted with life.
"You've been naughty, Hermione, haven't you?"
Hermione wiggled a bit more. "Well, not really. Perhaps--"
SMACK! "Yes, you have. Very naughty, and what happens when you're naughty?"
Hermione suddenly went rigid. "Draco! Stop!"
"You aren't squirming out of this, so don't even try ."
"Goyle! He'll hear!"
Draco smirked, unseen. He could tell her that Goyle had silenced the room, but where would be the fun in that? Instead, he lifted his knee and gave both sit spots some attention. "Now, Hermione, Greg knows what happens to bad little girls. It will reassure him to know you're being properly taken care of. Lie still while I whack you and then we'll talk about it."
"Love, relax, I'm teasing. He can't hear a thing, now take your smacks like a big girl, now, won't you?"
He used his hand until it burnt, until Hermione was kicking and twisting and pleading to be let go. He stopped and hoisted her to her feet. "Get the slipper for me, there's love. Back over, well done, and your hand—thank you, Hermione."
Hermione felt so good and so awful at the same time. She felt elated they were married, but more than anything she wished her parents could have been there. She was thrilled that she and Draco could be intimate again, but in her current position…
"Now, Hermione Jane, what do naughty little girls get?"
Smack smack smack smack smack smack smack smack smack smack smack smack smack
"That's right. I'm going to smack your bottom until it's hot and sore, because you've got away with murder the last few weeks, haven't you?"
Smack smack smack smack smack smack smack smack smack smack smack smack smack
"You were very good about taking your punishment, weren't you, precious? I think my little girl's ready for a later bedtime. Bit more on your thighs, dearest, and—there we are, all done."
Hermione, sobbing, made no effort to rise. Draco pressed a hand to her back and rubbed, telling himself this would be a bigger purge than usual due to the excitement of the past few days. After a few very long minutes, Hermione began to quiet down and he carefully flipped her, carrying her to the bed.
Hermione sniffled as Draco put her down on the bed, lifting her gown back and opening the tin of salve he'd secreted there earlier. His hand began to stroke the stuff on her burning skin, and Hermione let herself relax, completely at ease. Then his hand slid lower.
"Oh, yes, yes. Draco?"
"May I do something for you?"
Behind her, Draco huffed. "Only you, Gra—Hermione. What would you like to do?"
"Lie down on the bed and I'll get on top."
Draco tried to ignore the sweet siren call of temptation. "Darling, I…" His body had other ideas and in two minutes he was on his back, Hermione astride him. She looked so serious, so studious that he had to laugh. "There's not going to be an exam, love. Stop looking so damned solemn about it."
Hermione grumbled. "That's easy for you to say. This is hard work. At least you're used to it."
Draco laughed out loud. "Poor love. Shall I relieve you of your chore and take you the usual way?"
She shook her head, hair swinging like a curtain, and pumped harder. "No, I'm—ahh—fine. How are—oh my—you?"
Draco's response was also his climax and then she was beside him again. "Well, that was nice."
"Mmm. You know, I really ought to put you down for a nap."
"Let's have one now, then."
"A bath first?"
Hermione nodded. "Let's not call Tibby, though."
"Quite. We'll never get her away if we do."
Outside the room, Greg dozed in his chair, head drooping forward and then snapping back. The room was well silenced, but every so often he'd heard things when they got very loud. He didn't care to dwell on them; he was very fond of Draco, and even sort of liked his bird, but there are some things a man doesn't want to know about his best mate.
And he felt guilty. There was something, something important. He'd seen it in the fumes and the small sip of wine he'd taken and it was bothering him like a flea bite, like an itchy wool jumper, like a rash. He finally lost the battle with sleep and lolled, and then there was Vince.
"Oi, Vince. How—how are you?"
Vince nodded. "All right, I suppose. How're the Harpies doing?"
"Fine. You know you're dead?"
"Yeah." They sat amicably for a moment, in between, and then Vince says seriously "Greg?"
"I'm to give you a message."
"Oh. What is it?"
"Tell him the Mask is slipping, and to remember which is the true. It'll be hard, but he has to do it."
"Shouldn't you just give him the message, then?"
Vince frowned. "What I said, but nothing's ever that easy, eh?"
Greg laughed. "Vince?"
"I miss you loads."
"S'all right. I've not left you, you know."
Greg nodded. "Still hard."
"It'll get better. Just remember the message."
But when they come out hours later, smiling and rosy and looking happier than Greg has ever seen them, he finds he can't quite remember. Not that night. Not the next day, when Lucius Malfoy pressed an enormous sum of money into his hands and sends him home with sincere thanks and one of his strange quips.
"My son would come, but he rose with the farmers, as the muggles would say."
"He's tending his garden, Gregory."
Greg furrowed his brow. "Draco has a garden? For herbs, like?"
Lucius surpressed a groan. "Rather. Do thank Galten for us, and owl if you should need anything, won't you?"
Greg agrees and steps through, thinking of the funny dream he had, and whether he should say something. He didn't, though. It was, after all, only a dream.